The Los Angeles Lakers face the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night in a game that will have some extra eyeballs on it considering how their last tilt went.
While on most nights it would be the Lakers’ 17-point comeback that would have been the story, it was instead the scrap between superstar LeBron James and Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart that stole the headlines. James struck Stewart with a hard blow while jostling for a rebound. It left Stewart bloodied and enraged, attempting to chase down James multiple times, bullying through security, his teammates and other Lakers players.
The November 21 incident resulted in James being suspended for one game and Stewart banned for two. Now, they’ll see each other again for the first time since on Sunday night and the Lakers have “raised awareness” of possible retaliation.
“To me, it’s just about raised awareness. We are all pros in this,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. “I don’t anticipate anything like that but we’ll have raised awareness.”
Stewart Doesn’t Believe Contact Was Accidental
While James has maintained the contact was accidental, Stewart has expressed he believes otherwise.
“This is going to be my last time addressing it. I watched the film, me personally, I don’t feel like that was an accident,” Stewart told reporters on Friday. “My main focus right now is on my team, my teammates and getting back to playing basketball. I’m not going to let that define who I am. I’m going to let what Detroit drafted me for define who I am and the way I play basketball. I don’t want to address that no more. My main focus is on helping my teammates and coaches.”
James took issue with Stewart’s assessment of the situation and clapped back at the 20-year-old.
“I don’t go into a game and make it an individual thing,” James detailed during his November 26 press conference. “I saw his comments today and he felt it was intentional or wasn’t an accident, going [on the] record again saying it was. … It wasn’t intentional at all. I’ve never been that player. I’ve never ever tried to seek a face [with] contact like that. It’s just not a part of my game or a part of basketball at all.”
Pistons Unlikely to Respond With Fireworks
Stewart has a bit of history with causing some issues with stars around the league, from James, to Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nets forward Blake Griffin.
“Isaiah is nowhere near what you saw in the video. I think if you put nine men in that same situation, they probably would’ve reacted — right, wrong or indifferent — in the same manner. Maybe not as extended as Isaiah took it, which was unfortunate,” Pistons coach Dwayne Casey said. “Great kid, young man. The kind of kid you want to take home to your family. Again, that was not a portrait of who he is as a man. Love him. He’s a part of our family. And for us, that’s in the rearview mirror.”